The first official workouts of Spring Training begin for half the league on Wednesday. Praise the baseball gods.
With Yu Darvish in Chicago, one of the biggest dominoes of the free agent market has finally fallen, but how about the rest of the free agent market? And after a trade heavy offseason, might there still be a deal or two to be made on that front as we head into Spring Training?
Today we’ll take a look at yet more from the top hitter on the market, and see how the teams that lost out on Darvish might move on.
It’s Spring Training Eve. This is the Rumor Roundup.
Twins looking to deal?
The Minnesota Twins were heavily involved in the Darvish sweepstakes, and now that they’ve missed out they’re looking elsewhere for a rotation upgrade.
Ace Ervin Santana will be out until May after undergoing a procedure to remove a calcification from a finger on his pitching hand, leaving the team very light in the starting rotation. As it stands, the Opening Day five will be young and relatively light on experience. Paul Molitor will want an innings eater to go along with Santana and inject a bit of quality and experience into that area of the team.
La Velle E Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has suggested that the team may go the trade route to fill the hole.
It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays have been open to trading ace Chris Archer for the right price. The righty would be perfect for the Twins: he’s pitched 200+ innings each of the last three years and can miss bats in ways that no one on the Twins starting staff really can at the moment. He’s also on a team-friendly deal, making $13.75m this season and next before hitting club options for 2020 and ’21 for $9m and $11m, respectively. According to Neal, the Twins have been lining this up as a backup plan to Darvish for some time, making a trade offer as recently as two weeks ago.
The Twins have feelers out to the remaining free agents in the starter’s market, but the Rays may be interested in outfield prospect Max Kepler, and Archer would be a tantalizingly affordable pitcher who, while not consistent enough to be a tried-and-true ace, can certainly serve at or near the top of their rotation. With the added effect of pitcher-friendly Target Field, he could step into the next tier of starters.
Boras goes upstairs for Martinez
Last week we noted that J. D. Martinez is frustrated with the perceived inflexibility of the Boston Red Sox and would rather sign elsewhere at this point. Unfortunately for him, the only other team with concrete interest in him is his old team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, so doesn’t really have much to play off of at the moment.
With the market on the market’s biggest power hitter still stagnant, Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, seems to have taken a different tack. Last week FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick has met with Boras multiple times this offseason, with The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal tweeting that they have meet within the last week.
This is a move that Boras has pulled out of the playbook before when he’s been dissatisfied with the general managers he’s negotiating with. Banking on the idea that owners can be more susceptible to an emotional sway, he’s gone above the GM’s heads and straight to the money. The most prominent example of this is the case of Prince Fielder, a story well told by CBS Sports’ Jonah Keri earlier this winter.
In 2011, Fielder entered free agency off the back of a season where he slashed .299/.415/.566 with 38 homers and 120 RBI. It was a season that put him third in MVP voting, but with teams beginning to get wise to how to value players like him in the open market—his defense was awful, he clogged the bases, and his body type was likely to break down—and Fielder was unsigned deep into January.
So Boras went straight to the late Mike Ilitch, then owner of the Detroit Tigers, Mr “I was desperate to win a World Series”, and that desperation (combined, probably, with the sudden need for power after Victor Martinez was lost for the 2011 season with a non-baseball injury in January) saw Ilitch overrule his front office and sign Fielder to a contract that still stands as one of the 10 biggest in baseball history.
Now, Boras may be trying to make the same kind of end-run in service of Martinez. It’s no secret the D-Backs would like to have Martinez back and are willing to overlook his terrible outfield defense, but they would have to get very creative to fit into their budget, particularly with free agency looming for Paul Goldschmidt. But Boras may be trying to get Kendrick to stretch the pocketbook a little with a direct approach. Watch this space.
Yankees still pursuing pitching
Darvish was never likely to fit into the New York Yankees’ plans to get under the luxury tax threshold this season, but the Bronx Bombers are still looking for a rotation upgrade. Ken Rosenthal reported last week that they had interest in another Rays trade candidate, Jake Odorizzi, although that report did include the caveat that such a trade might have been explored as a way to clear the contract of Jacoby Ellsbury to use that money for other pursuits—namely Darvish.
Lance Lynn is another option, but according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi he may take up too much money than GM Brian Cashman is comfortable with, as he enjoys having a buffer zone to use in making mid-season trades as the need arises.
A rotation move would be a luxury for the Yankees at this point, as they have a pretty set starting five of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery, with several high-level prospects also in the wings should the need arise. If they’re truly set on staying frugal this winter, it’s likely they’ll go into the season as they are.
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